Johnny Bullet
Movie Reviews
Fast Company (1979)
By Hervé St-Louis

March 24, 2016 - 15:40

Studios: Canadian Film Development Corporation, Michael Leibowitz Inc., Quadrant Films
Writer(s): Nicholas Campbell, David Cronenberg, Phil Savath, Courtney Smith, Alan Treen
Starring: William Smith, Nicholas Campbell, John Saxon, Claudia Jennings, Don Francks, Cedric Smith, Judy Foster
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Produced by: David Perlmutter, Michael Lebowitz, Peter O'Brian, Phil Savath, Courtney Smith
Running Time: 91 minutes
Release Date: August 1979
Rating: R (Restricted)
Distributors: Alliance Atlantis Home Video, Blue Underground

Fast Company is a little known David Cronenberg film about professional drag racing. Aging star drag racer Lonnie Johnson and upstart Billy Brocker are betrayed by their manager Phil Adamson and start their own racing team to beat Gary Black and his evil companions. Will the old and new heroes of the track defeat their former bosses and long-time road nemesis?

A friend recommended this film to me because I’m working on Johnny Bullet. He claimed that it was the greatest Canadian drag racing movie. Fast Company is not. It is a poor movie that presages the dreadful 1980s cheesy B movies starring the likes of Chuck Norris and Michael Dudikoff. Worse, it is a Canadian movie trying to pass as an American film but I could not help seeing how Canadian this film was. It literally screamed Canada to me.

One way of knowing if a film is Canadian or American is to look at the photography. Canadian films use this funky photography calibration that makes everything look bright and less grainy. The best way for me to describe this odd feel is to call it Boy Scout film photography. Cronenberg shot his film in Alberta. Even in the first shots set somewhere in the “American Midwest” all I could see was my beautiful Alberta and its majestic landscapes. Trying to pass Alberta’s foothills for the United States is not possible when you show a flat highway bordered by green Rockies.

The extras and secondary characters looked and “smelled” Canadian! The way they coalesced around the heroes after their many victories wearing clean blue jeans and cheesy clean 1970s hair dues made them looked civil, polite, and respectful. American crowds never look this disciplined. Finally, the crowds were so white, that one would never believe that such a place ever existed in the United States! Only when the film moved its locale officially to Edmonton, Canada, did it stop posing and sounding phoney.

The plot of this film is akin to an episode of Jem and the Holograms. The good guys fight the bad manager who sides with the opposing team. They steal a car from their opponent without any consequences and then use it to compete in a new race. One difference here with Jem and the Holograms in Fast Company is that it featured a lot of gratuitous cheesecake female nudity. It was not necessary. All it did was attempt to make the male leads look more macho.

Many critics approach Fast Company as if there were something profound hidden in its core about the human condition. These critics cannot admit that Cronenberg directed a lemon without anything worthwhile while he claims that it is his favourite film. Maybe Fast Company is Cronenberg’s favourite film because he did not have live up to any expectations and just served his audience a bad movie, forcing them to believe that they really witnessed a multidimensional masterpiece.

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